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Ganser syndrome: its most frequent symptoms and causes

Ganser syndrome: its most frequent symptoms and causes

October 4, 2022

In the medical and psychological literature we find mentions of Ganser syndrome, a very infrequent mental disorder characterized by symptoms such as approximate answers to simple questions, complex hallucinations and conversion phenomena.

In this article we will analyze the causes and symptoms of Ganser syndrome .

  • Related article: "The differences between syndrome, disorder and disease"

What is Ganser syndrome?

Ganser syndrome is a very rare clinical picture that was first described in 1898. The name given to this phenomenon comes from its discoverer: the German psychiatrist Sigbert Ganser. We also find the terms "Hysterical pseudodementia", "pseudo-demential syndrome" and "prison psychosis" .


This last name refers to the fact that Ganser syndrome has been identified with a higher frequency than usual in prison populations. In most of these cases, the symptoms are most likely an attempt to receive better treatment from prison staff or other inmates.

The most characteristic symptom of Ganser syndrome are the responses or approximate answers; these are failed answers but relatively close to the truth given to simple questions. The other signs of this picture include conversion phenomena, eco-phenomena and apparent alterations of consciousness, among others.


The few available prevalence studies indicate that Ganser syndrome appears in a more common in males than in females , in a 3: 1 ratio. The average age of the diagnosis would be somewhat above 30 years, although occasionally it occurs in children. However, very little is known about this phenomenon because of its extreme infrequency.

Possible causes and psychological hypotheses

Ganser syndrome has traditionally been classified in the category of factitious disorders, which are characterized by Pretending a disease to get a "patient role" . The other typical phenomenon of this class is the Münchausen syndrome, in which the person feigns illnesses or psychological traumas in order to obtain social reinforcement.

In this sense, factitious disorders of simulation can be distinguished. In the vocabulary of clinical psychology and other nearby disciplines, the term "simulation" is used to refer to cases in which a disease or a mental disorder is pretended for a purpose other than obtaining the role of the patient, as be the economic benefit


It is extended the understanding of Ganser syndrome as a dissociative disorder , so that it would be more similar to phenomena such as depersonalization, derealization and dissociative amnesia. Dissociative experiences consist of separations of cognitive processes (including consciousness) that arise as a reaction to stress.

However, at present the most accepted explanation about the causes of Ganser syndrome is defined as a psychotic disorder . In this sense, it is worth highlighting the association of this clinical picture with schizophrenia, intoxication by alcohol and other psychoactive substances and severe depressive disorders.

Symptoms and main signs

The responses, the conversion symptoms, the alterations of consciousness and pseudoalucinations are the four most defining features of Ganser syndrome. It is also important to highlight the eco-phenomena, which occur with some frequency in this clinical context, and the high levels of stress and anxiety that are detected in these people.

1. Approximate answers or answers

The answers are based on answers relatively close to reality that are given to easy questions to answer. In many cases, the Ganser syndrome is conceptualized around this peculiar manifestation; in fact, the DSM-IV manual places the approximate answers at the core of the criteria for the diagnosis of the table.

2. Symptoms of somatic conversion

The conversion consists in the presence of physical symptoms, such as pain or sensory and motor deficits, in the absence of an organic cause identifiable Conversion disorder is currently questioned; DSM-5 includes it in the category "somatic symptom disorders", which also includes factitious disorder, among others.

3. Altered level of consciousness

The two symptoms related to the level of alertness, and therefore to consciousness, that appear more commonly in Ganser syndrome are the feeling of mental confusion and the loss of personal identity . In general, people with this clinical picture may have difficulty reacting to the stimuli of the environment and to process them.

  • You may be interested: "The 6 levels of loss of consciousness and associated disorders"

4. Complex hallucinations

People with Ganser syndrome often report very elaborate hallucinations and in any of the sensory modalities. Since in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia hallucinations are usually auditory and simple, this type of stories can serve as a clue in the diagnosis of this rare syndrome .

  • Related article: "Hallucinations: definition, causes, and symptoms"

5. Ecofenómenos

Echo-phenomena or ecosymptoms are behaviors of imitation or repetition that occur without voluntary control of the subject. The stimuli of the environment that reproduce can be actions (echopraxia), verbalizations (ecolalia) or facial expressions (ecomimia), among others.

  • Related article: "Echolalia: what it is, causes and related disorders"

What is GANSER SYNDROME? What does GANSER SYNDROME mean? GANSER SYNDROME meaning & explanation (October 2022).


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